Since it’s been a while since I bought any film soundtracks, I decided to investigate some of the past year’s releases. Being a Danny Elfman fan, the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory CD was my first port of call primarily for its deliciously zany Oompa Loompa songs (Violet Beauregarde’s being the standout for me) as well as a decent orchestrated theme. Collectively it’s very reminiscent of his Nightmare Before Christmas efforts and maintains a similar level in quality, variation and uncanny ability to hang together despite the apparent chaos.
2046 was Wong Kar Wei’s recent noir masterpiece, and it’s eerie use of insistent string sections coupled elsewhere with western jazz grabbed me immediately. The mood of its darkly stylish 1960s Hong Kong is most evident and the use of subtle variation on its main theme works well here in a film that is about recalling memories and the way they eventually bleed into one another. Apparently the 20-track disc I picked up at Beanos for a fiver is actually rather hard to get hold of, in favour of a mere 10-track standard version.
Since Rom was watching it a few days ago, next up was Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean offering. Despite overuse of it’s main refrain throughout the film, there are a number of decent tracks here. “The Medallion Calls” is a fantastic introduction to Jack Spa – sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow (a sequence which still remains my favourite character introduction on film) and “Barbossa is Hungry” is one of the longer tracks that skillfully uses tension-mounting strings before breaking out, while “He’s a Pirate” offers that familiar refrain instantly recognisable from the film.
However, the hidden gem I discovered was Finding Neverland. Whilst I saw and really enjoyed the enchanting film, I hadn’t paid much attention to the soundtrack, implying that it was rather forgetable. So too, I’ve read, was the experience of several others until they sat down and listened to it later which is when you realise that it’s actually a testament to just how well it suits the film. And make sure you are sitting when you do because it’s breathtaking. I’ve never heard of Jan Kaczmarek but she weaves a phenomenal series of tracks that feel simple, light and nimble but with magestically soaring emotional swoops and dives so magical that if you have a heart you cannot help but smile. The opening “Where is Mr. Barrie?” shows off its style and range brilliantly from its pizzicato start through its choral midsection to its powerful string conclusion. “The Park”, “The Play and The Flight” and “Forgotten Overture” all amount to some of best music written for film for a long while, making this the best soundtrack of the last year by a fair margin. Listen now.